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Fences, Walls, and Barricades

In an awful case a few years ago (Wiener v. Southcoast Childcare Centers (88 P.3d 517 (Cal. 2004)), a homicidal maniac bent on killing children drove his Cadillac through the chain link fence surrounding a preschool playground and succeeded in killing two children and injuring others. The parents sued the preschool, arguing that the owner had a duty to provide a barricade against errant traffic. The court held that the purpose of the fence was to keep the children in, not to keep cars out, and that the preschool had no duty to erect a blockade. This raised an interesting question about the nature of barriers.

Plaintiffs often argue for bigger, stronger barricades, but these types of walls are not without problems of their own. For one thing, how immense must a wall be to keep out not only a Geo Metro (average weight: 1,840 pounds), but also a Hummer (average weight: four tons)? Moreover, assuming that all but the mentally ill driver do not intend to hit the barrier, the risk to the driver is increased depending on how the barrier is constructed: a thick planting of shrubbery is more flexible than a metal guardrail, which is more flexible than a concrete barrier. Fixed barriers � such as concrete walls � increase the possibility of harm to someone who crashes into them. So added protection to those within the walls increases the danger to motorists outside the walls.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.